Halloween Week

Posted: November 4, 2012 in Uncategorized

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(Notice the boats/ocean in the background)

As my friends and family celebrated Halloween, some in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, I was enjoying another week of sun, baseball, and beaches. Another two games produced my first defeat with Manly, but also our biggest victory. I had an awesome meeting with Gordon Spence, the performance psychologist and professor. And, I officially signed up for a fitness certification course.

This week was quite the roller coaster on the baseball field. On Wednesday, we jumped out to an early lead against Cornella, only to relinquish it in the final inning. The score was 9-7 for the bad guys. After the game, BJ our captain, pronounced that today’s game (Sunday) is a must win game. We are in the middle of the pack right now, so losing two games to a below average team would hurt. And so, as good teams do, we responded with an absolute beat down. We seized the lead in the first inning and cruised to a 15-1 victory to record the series split. For the week, I was 3-7 (3 hits out of 7 at-bats) with a double and three runs batted in. I was able to get some extra work in with a few different guys on the team, something that I really hope will continue as the season progresses.

Overall, I’d say that it was a pretty good week on the diamond. Even though we lost a game we should have won on Wednesday, we showed how tough we are today. In baseball, there can be a lot of highs and lows, if you allow it. The key to being successful as a team and as an individual is to keep the same level of confidence regardless of what happens. Don’t get cocky when things are going well but stay confident when things aren’t going the way you want. We did a good job of that this week and I’m looking forward to next week, where we will be squaring off against the second ranked team in our league.

Off the diamond, I have had a super-productive week. Early Wednesday morning, I traveled into Sydney for coffee with Gordon Spence, a performance psychologist and professor at University of Sydney. By the end of our conversation, I had agreed to come in to his master’s level class on the psychology of peak performance to present on how mental training techniques have helped me as an athlete. While doing so, I will be able to sit in on a few of his lectures in order to learn a few things for myself and see if this field is something I would enjoy studying further. In addition, I signed up for the course to become a certified fitness instructor. My class starts in a week and I could not be more excited about getting that ball rolling.

Finally, some things are in motion with the ABL (the professional league in Australia) right now and I’m really hoping to get an opportunity to play there, potentially sooner rather than later. It’s still totally out of my control but the way things are set up now with my team in Manly, my fitness course, and the beach a five minute walk away, I would happily continue life here on the northern beaches of Sydney. I could, however, easily pack up my stuff and be headed just about anywhere in Australia on the drop of a dime. So while all that sorts itself out, I’ll just continue living it up and getting after it!

Cheers Mates!

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It’s been an exciting week since I last wrote. Because I’m having so much fun over here and no longer spending my days in front of the tv watching baseball, I’m just going to give weekly updates. This week, I moved into my apartment, played two games, watched the Blue Sox play Team Australia and decided that I will pursue a fitness education.

On Monday, I moved into my new apartment. I have a couple really nice Australian roommates, who I don’t see very often, but are fun to be around when I do. They have promised to bring me a long when they are doing fun things (sailing, hiking the Blue Mountains, spear fishing, surfing, etc.), so they will definitely be making my Australian experience more enjoyable. Living with Australians is really important to my experience here because it helps me get a real feel for the culture and lifestyle. It is definitely something that I will look back on and be glad that I did. I’m about a five minute walk to the beach, the park, the grocery store, and the gym. The picture at the top is at the Dee Why Beach swimming pool, about ten minutes from my door. Turns out Australia is not all desert and the people aren’t all Crocodile Dundee.

We had a game on Wednesday against Blacktown that we ended up tying 6-6. We were up 6-1 going into the last inning of the time-shortened game and let them back into it. We were playing on a field with no fence in right field and Carl, our seventeen-year-old outfielder, who signed with the Braves and is on the Blue Sox roster, hit one inside the park homerun and almost had another. I ripped a triple right-handed down the right field line and a single to drive in a couple runs. I also made a couple nice plays at third base (flashing some leather baby!). Even though we weren’t able to seal up the victory, we kept the undefeated streak alive.

On Friday, I went out to watch Team Australia (Australia’s national team) play the Blue Sox. My boy, Alessio, started all three games of the series and played great. On Friday, he got a couple hits and only dropped one routine fly ball (oops). It was fun to go out there and watch a good baseball game. There was a big crowd and some good energy in the stadium. I know I can play with those guys so it stung a little sitting in the stands watching, but if and when I get an opportunity, I will be ready.

Today, Sunday, we played against Blacktown again. This time we were able to sneak away with the victory, 2-1. Our pitching staff and defense did a great job of keeping us in the game. We scored both of our runs in one inning, thanks to some timely hitting from our two Dans. Dan Meder got a base hit and stole a base to get us two runners in scoring position, and then Danny Glynn knocked them in with a base hit up the middle. I was hitless in four at bats, but I was seeing the ball well. Their lefty starter was throwing me a lot of off-speed pitches (change-ups and curveballs) in fast ball counts and did a good job of keeping me off balance. We kept the streak alive and I’m looking forward to getting back out there on Wednesday!

Lastly, I have decided to pursue a certification in fitness and begin studying for the strength training and conditioning exam. After working for a couple days as a garage door installer, I realized that a life of power tools is not for me. I began researching and talking to people and found out that if I take a two week class with another week of work experience, I can get the most basic fitness certification here that will allow me to work at a gym. While I won’t be a personal trainer, I will be able to be on the floor and most importantly, learn by being around experienced people in the field. At the same time, I will begin studying for the CSCS exam (Certified Strength Training and Conditioning Specialist). According to several of my friends, this qualification is very beneficial, if not necessary, to train athletes in the US. In addition to giving me work opportunities now and in the future, taking the class, working in a gym, and studying for the exam will allow me to take control of my own training so I can become the best athlete I can be.

I’m really excited about this upcoming week. I’ll work out, hit, play two more games, meet with a Performance Psychologist to discuss potential internship opportunities, sign up for the fitness class, experience more of Australia and continue getting after the dream! Until next week!

Former Met’s and curent Blue Sox’s pitcher Dae-Sung Koo facing Randy Johnson

 

After being told that I didn’t make the Blue Sox roster on Tuesday, could I have possibly asked for a better opportunity than a game against them?

The Blue Sox started Chirs Oxspring, who pitched in the Major Leagues and played for the Nashville Sounds on his way (so I probably got him to sign a few baseball cards back in the day). After our lead-off hitter hit a ground ball on the first pitch, I came up to bat. First pitch was a fast ball down in the zone, strike 1. Second pitch looked great! Out of the hand, I’m thinking, “I’m going to crush this,” I swing, and all of a sudden I realize it is a change-up. I’m not even close to touching it. Down no balls to two strikes, I go into battle mode. Oxspring winds up and delivers. Another change-up. This time, I recognize it a little better, get the barrel on the ball and hit a triple down the right field line. Not quite the big leagues, but it still felt pretty good.

We ended up fighting our way to a 2-2 tie (they big-leagued us and stopped the game when they ran out of pitching). They started a line-up full of current and ex-professional players, including Chris Oxspring and Dae-Sung Koo, who is featured in the above video. We came out swinging and played a good game. Our two pitchers, who will be pitching for the Blue Sox when their season officially starts, pitched a combined eight innings, giving up only two runs. We have a few current and ex-professionals on our roster too but really, everyone down the line-up hit the ball well and we put a lot of pressure on their defense and pitching staff throughout the game. Personally, I had three hits in five at-bats. I drove in our second run, just barely getting a ball over the second baseman’s glove. I played third base and made some really nice plays defensively. While we obviously hoped to take the win, it was a good battle and all of us were happy with the way we competed.

While I will not be starting the season on the Blue Sox roster, I think yesterday was a step in the right direction. I was able to show their coaching staff what I can do and that I can help them win games down the line. Since I still don’t have much control over what happens there, I’m just going to continue to focus on my club games and keep swinging the stick!

In life outside of baseball, I finally found an apartment to live in for at least a few months. It’s a five minute walk to the beach, the gym, and the grocery store. What more could I ask for? I’m not sure if I’m going to keep at my “construction” job. I don’t really have any responsibility so it’s pretty boring. I’m going to look into interning with a performance psychologist and a few other different things that are more interesting to me.

It’s homecoming for Columbia today, so all my friends from college are back up in New York having a good time together. Days like today make me miss being back in the US. Instead of partying with all those guys, I will be participating in my first “Bowls Day.” All the guys from my club team are heading out to the park to drink beer and lawn bowl. Not quite homecoming, but I’m excited!

Our next game is Wednesday. We will continue getting after it and keep playing good baseball!

Until next time.

Aside  —  Posted: October 21, 2012 in Uncategorized

Cut

Posted: October 17, 2012 in Uncategorized

“You can’t always control circumstances. However, you can always control your attitude, approach, and response. Your options are to complain or to look ahead and figure out how to make the situation better.” – Tony Dungy

Last night, I heard the words that no player ever wants to hear: “We’re not going to be able to keep you on the team.” I don’t really know how to describe that feeling. It’s kind of like someone just kicked you in the stomach. It’s hard to breathe and swallow, let alone talk. I wasn’t really able to think about anything or formulate any sort of reasonable questions to ask. All I could manage was a thank you for the opportunity, as my mind was racing.

Twenty-four hours later, it still hurts pretty badly. Thinking rationally about the Blue Sox situation, I would have had to do something absolutely incredible to make the team. They already were over the roster limit before I got there. Their ultimate goal is to have a team full of Australian players win the league. The Blue Sox want to prepare many of their young players for the future. There are several former pro or current pro guys on the team that are going to play merely because of their affiliations with major league teams. And there are guys who have been around for a long time that the coaches just know. Nevertheless, it still hurts.

I am starting to feel a little better though. As Tony Dungy says, you can’t control outside circumstances, you can only control your response. I put my best foot forward with the Blue Sox and their decision was ultimately, out of my control. My attitude, approach and response are totally up to me. Coach told me that they want me to stay in shape and continue to play for the club team. Injuries and other situations come up during a season and the team will need to get new players. That could be my opportunity. But who knows. It is out of my control. All I can do is dominate club ball. And on Saturday, my club team happens to be…scrimmaging the Blue Sox. Are you kidding me? Let’s go!

Life outside of baseball has been interesting, as well. Today was my first day installing garage doors. You should have seen me try and use one of those power tools. I got some work to do. I’ll be back at it again tomorrow. One thing is for sure, I can only get better.

Long Reef

Reward for a little run

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Four in a Row

Posted: October 15, 2012 in Uncategorized

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Another game, and another late inning win for the Eagles!  We scored two runs in the top of the ninth and then shut the door in the bottom half for the victory. Cox and Vaughn, our two pitchers who will throw for the Blue Sox this year, combined for the shutout. Alessio, who played for South Africa in the World Baseball Classic qualifiers earlier this year, had two hits and scored the winning run in the ninth. I played well and was voted MVP for the game. I had a triple, made a couple plays at second base to save runs, and scored our second run on a good base-running play. Four in a row for the team, and three in a row since I joined them!  Our overall record is 4-4 and we are currently in the middle of the pack. The top four out of nine teams in the league advance to the playoffs. There is a huge advantage to being one of the top two teams, so that is our goal.

I have an exciting week coming up! I’m practicing with the Blue Sox on Tuesday and Thursday. They announce their thirty-five man roster on Friday, so I will know where I stand then. We have no game on Wednesday but we will scrimmage the Blue Sox on Saturday at 2:00pm Australia time (10:00 pm central time on Friday). The game will be streamed online so the faithful can tune in. I’m checking out some more apartments and hopefully I’ll find one soon. I’ve watched too much Dora the Explorer in the last ten days.

That’s all for now! Big shout out to Ben Bartholomew for catching his first career touchdown pass and for being a dad soon! He has definitely been getting after it. 

Blue Sox and Another Victory

Posted: October 12, 2012 in Uncategorized

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G’day mates! Hope you are doing well! It’s Friday afternoon here and the Yankees and Orioles are having quite the battle. All these post-season games have been absolute “nut-crackers!”

I’ve had a pretty fun and busy last few days. On Tuesday night, I had my first practice with the Sydney Blue Sox, the professional team here. It was so much fun to get out there and really work hard and compete during a practice. Reminded me a lot of college practice, where you are always working on something. I had a couple live at bats against the Sydney pitchers and they didn’t go great. Those guys are on a different level than what I have seen before, but I think I will be able to make the adjustment, just like I have at every other level. I have one more week of practice with them to prove that I deserve to be on the team.

We had a club game with Manly on Wednesday night. Another victory for the Eagles! We took an early lead, let them back in the game, but then finished them off with a five or six run inning. We had great pitching and made some awesome plays. My man, Scott Riddle, was 4-4 to lead our team to victory. I walked my first two at bats and stole a couple bases. Then, I blooped one over the shortstop (classic Jonny, I know). In my fourth at bat, I come up with runners on second and third, one out. We had just let them back in the game so we want to answer back. I get a fastball down in the zone and hit a line drive HARD over the center fielders head for a triple. Let me tell you, there are not too many things that feel better than squaring up a baseball. I got a hit in my last at bat to finish the game 3-3 with 2 walks and a few runs batted in. Our next game is Sunday, where we will be looking to keep our win streak alive!

I’m hoping to figure out my apartment situation soon. I’m looking at an apartment on the beach (rough, I know). And it appears that I’ll be installing garage doors to help pay the rent. There will definitely be some interesting times there.

Oh yea! And we saw dolphins right outside the house yesterday! There were about twenty of them. No sharks yet.

Cheers! And you better be getting after it!